'A major source of concern': poll finds widespread mistrust of government among Quebecers
Quebec's National Assembly (Fred Bissonnette / The Canadian Press)
A third of Quebecers believe politicians don’t tell the public the truth about the decisions they make.
That’s according to a provincial poll from the Institute national de sante du Quebec (INSPQ) which surveyed Quebecers on their public health beliefs at the end of October.
One in three Quebecers said they believe “politicians usually don't tell us what really drives their decisions,” and 40 per cent of respondents believe “a lot of very important things are happening in the world that the general public is not aware of.”
That margin might make public health policymakers nervous, at a time when public participation is critical to containing the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the poll, two in ten respondents told INSPQ they don’t intend to comply with changes to COVID-19 restrictions if they were to change in their area.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES “A MAJOR SOURCE OF CONCERN.”
“It should be a major source of concern for public health officials,” said Daniel Béland, a political science professor specializing in public policy at McGill University.
“That is a certainly sizable number of the population.”
He says mistrust in the government gives way to the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation.
The government needs to maintain consistent communication with the public if they want people to follow health guidelines, especially as those policies are subject to constant change, he said.
“Conspiracy theories become especially popular when you face a high level of uncertainty and hance a high level of change.”
UP TO NOW: PUBLIC TRUST IN FLUX
In March, a national poll found a staggering 89 per cent of Quebecers were very satisfied in Premier Francois Legault’s handling of the pandemic. By the end of the summer, that number had dropped to 75 per cent.
During the early stages of the pandemic, the INSPQ polled Quebecers on their beliefs about COVID-19 policy.
About a third of respondents did not trust the government was being completely transparent with what it knew about the virus.
“It makes sense that over time, public confidence will drop,” said Béland.
“People are willing to make sacrifices, but the more the crisis lingers, the more people become impatient.”
MORE PEOPLE ARE WEARING MASKS
Overall adherence to general safety rules has gone up through the second wave, according to the poll.
At the end of September, 34 per cent said they ‘always’ practiced social distancing and frequent handwashing. By the end of October, that number was up to nearly half of Quebecers.
Where physical distancing is impossible, nearly all respondents said they always wear a mask.